No one really every told me why I should visit Galway. “Galway is lovely,” they said, “you’ll like it.” After living in Ireland for more than a year, I decided that a bank holiday weekend was a good a time to see the lovely city of Galway. My reason for going? I wanted to see Achill Island and cycle the 42 kilometre Greenway. I didn’t end up doing either of those things and instead took my time ambling through the colourful old city, eating a lot of tasty meals and going on a little boat trip up the river. If you’ve never been to Galway before, I’ve put together a few travel tips for you!
Rent a car from Europcar and drive to the city (3 hours from Cork, 2,5 hours from Dublin, 4 hours from Belfast), or take the train. If time is no issue, you’ll want to take the cheaper train that goes through Dublin (about a five hour journey). Then again there are always buses: try CityLink or use GoBus to get directly to Galway (only from Dublin).
The River Corrib runs right through Galway, dividing the city in it’s flow. It joins into Galway Bay that flanks the south side of the city. The only thing you’ll really see along the river are swans, unless you take a boat trip up to Lough Corrib. The weather was quite gloomy the whole time but the rain held off, allowing for clear views of castles and islands.
Other things to see in the city would include a walk up along the beach front to Salthill Promenade, a stroll down Shop Street and through the Latin Quarter. Peek inside St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church and the new Galway Cathedral. Do as the locals do and have a drink at the Spanish Arch and eat your McDonagh’s fish ‘n chips on The Long Walk. Buy yourself an Aran sweater if you’re committed to being the ultimate tourist, and then enjoy a Galway Hooker in the local (pub) – forget the Guinness.
Here’s a little walking tour that I put together for you on Google maps that starts at Eyre Square, stops for lunch at McDonagh’s, passes through the Latin Quarter and heads up towards the Cathedral after a drink at Crane’s Bar. Last but not least, live music should be right near the top of your list!
Galway is a great base to use for getting out to the Aran Islands (it’s recommended that you stay at least a night on the islands) or to plan your Greenway Cycle adventure. Travel north to see the lakes and Connemara National Park. Go south to see the Cliffs of Moher or the Burren (about an hour away).
The city offers a whole lot of central accommodation options. None of these were available to us when we went though, because of the Galway Food Festival. Frankly, the city was packed and we could easily imagine that all rooms were fully booked. My best tip is to book much further in advance if you’re planning on visiting over a festival weekend.
Often activities/things to do are listed separately but in Galway, eating is certainly a worthy activity in its own right. Restaurants and cafés of all types line Quay Street, and they’re also peppered around Eyre Square near the station – and everywhere else. A few to try out are:
• The Jungle Cafe for breakfast
• Nimmos for an award-winning lunch
• McDonagh’s for a dinner of fish ‘n chips
As I found out on my trip to Galway, the old city has a lot going for it. It is very small making it easily walk-able. With that colourful, quaint Irish-feel that tourists hope to experience the city also offers many wonderful cafés and restaurants in a small radius. Galway is lovely. You’ll like it.